Pope Benedict XVI uses an iPad at the Vatican in this file
photo. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano
Even though he hasn't sent a single tweet yet, Pope
Benedict has more than half a million Twitter followers in
eight languages a day after the Vatican unveiled his handle:
They included people ranging from the simple Roman Catholic
faithful to a Jewish head of state.
"Your holiness, welcome to Twitter. Our relations with the
Vatican are at their best & can form a basis to further
peace everywhere," tweeted Israeli President Shimon Peres,
who at 89 is four years older than Benedict.
The Vatican said that Benedict will start tweeting on mostly
spiritual topics from December 12.
The pope actually has eight linked Twitter accounts.
@Pontifex, the main account, is in English. The other seven
have a suffix at the end for the different language versions.
For example, the German version is @Pontifex_de, and the
Arabic version is @Pontifex_ar.
Today the English version had the most followers, with nearly
400,000. The next largest was Spanish, with some 93,000. The
lowest number of followers was the Arabic, with about 3,500.
Benedict's native German had about 10,000.
But the pope, leader of some 1.2 billion Roman Catholics,
won't be following anyone but himself, the Vatican said.
A look at his official Twitter page on Tuesday showed that he
is "following" seven people but they are merely versions of
his own Twitter account in different languages.
The first papal tweets will be answers to questions sent to
The tweets will be going out in Spanish, English, Italian,
Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French. Other
languages will be added in the future.
The tweets will come primarily from the contents of his
weekly general audience, Sunday blessings and homilies on
major Church holidays. They will also include reaction to
major world events, such as natural disasters.
He will push the button on his first tweet himself on Dec. 12
but in the future most of the tweets will be written by
aides, and he will sign off on them.
The Vatican, whose website has been taken down by hackers in
the past, said it has taken precautions to make sure the
pope's certified account is not hacked. Only one computer in
the Vatican's Secretariat of State will be used for the
The pope's Twitter page is designed in yellow and white - the
colours of the Vatican - and his picture over the backdrop of
a St Peter's Square packed with pilgrims.
The page may change during different liturgical seasons of
the year and when the pope is away from the Vatican on trips.